Turning To The Audience

8 Sep

Who needs an audience that goes home? At the festival office part of the hard work surrounding the two weeks of public presence, consists of finding new audiences. “-We want to reach out to individuals and groups that don’t find their way to contemporary dance.” Do we really? The programmer underlines the importance of his local audience and how the program is specific for the local context. Interesting, I’m curious cuz it seems a number of shows are local and special everywhere. Somebody said:

“-Sweden is really a special country when it comes to theatre.”
“-How do you mean?”
“-Well, it’s the only country in Europe where Forced Entertainment is only present every second year.”

The festival crew works hard on attracting new audiences, obviously it’s only concerning demographic populations such as immigrants and kids or immigrants and kids, or sometimes due a strike of genius kids and immigrants. Interest groups seem to be a foreign concept, but guess why: those aren’t part of the local government’s statistics. As part of the hard work, we hire a marketing company that’s very professional and innovative. After some months of hard thinking and uncountable hours on consultants fees the company pitches a marketing strategy that everyone celebrates because it is absolutely identical to last years. It consists solely of conventional signs, longitudes and latitudes, so we can be certain that nothing will go wrong. Business as usual. Yes, it is remarkable to what extent marketing campaigns for festivals fail to be different. Impressive.

The problem with dance and choreography is that there’s only one wallet, one sack of money. There is no mi casa blah blah, no way: the State runs the business. Goddamn, I envy visual art for their commercial players, if for no other reason then that dealers and collectors are in it for the money not just for keeping their job. Our expression, on the other hand, is financed exclusively by state money which implies that the festival as much as the artist will do nothing else than more of the same. Why change if it worked fine last year and the previous ten? After all, the festival director won’t become a millionaire even if the ticket sales increased a billion percent. As a business model dance and choreography is a sucker, it is currently approaching the future through what is commonly known as classical Fordism. A large part of the business however is still operating due an economic model called feudalism. It’s kind of weird that however volatile and immaterial dance and performance is, it is treated strictly as a product that operates independently of relations.

On the other hand since we know that the State needs art and culture, that its part of your cities unique selling point and the festival is part of the bigger picture, why, if we don’t even get a good pay, don’t we invest in risk economy like it was our family name. We have nothing to lose; yes it’s just a festival, just a piece, just a season or intervention. Basically, who cares? But since nobody does it’s also the time of our lives.
The festival is busy looking for their new audiences, however only until the show starts. Sometimes the new audience is even granted an explanatory introduction, as if anybody would need escort to be able to consume a dance piece. Give me a break and stop patronizing people. During the show they, next to us, a we that doesn’t belong together, sit there in the dark, without communicating anything at all. Patiently we take in solos and duos, if we are lucky somewhat abstract choreographic attempts, but more often poor choreography dressed up in theatre: I can’t think of an appropriate punishment for the invention of Tanz-theater. — Ouch — It’s amazing, there we are a few hundred curious individuals (at least in the beginning) sitting in the dark attentively consuming some dancy monologue that at best resembles a nostalgic documentary about someone’s memories. And then, we all rush out, the entire audience seems to be blown out of the venue as if a tsunami just passed the fourth wall. Grandiose.

The only people staying around after the show are professionals, dancers and local choreographers, a presenter or two flown in for the day, everybody in intimate conversations. The bar is perfect to fit 18 people and if we are lucky they even have two kinds of white wine. Moderation.
A good half an hour later the performer shows up, perhaps even the choreographer. Now, dressed in pseudo fashionable after-work outfits. They have a drink, probably mineral water, and after a short conversation with the flown in programmers take off for dinner. “-Yeah, I really need something to eat.” But come on, what happened to the audience? Is it really so bad, that we only need them to buy tickets? The moment the statistics are fulfilled we get rid of them, and fast. Seriously, what do we need the audience for? Do we really want them to go home? Do we want them to stop thinking about the show already on the tram home? Do we want them to make it home for the late news? Have we forgotten about the possibility that those people might have something on their mind, at home they can’t inform us, with the girlfriend and the glass of wine they can’t participate. Can we afford not to listen, not to overhear and share all these conversations which are about our work, are we really so cynical that we can ignore our audience and stop our mission in dance and choreography after the applause?

What are you doing in the dressing room after the show? Giving notes, save them for tomorrow and stop trying so hard to be a choreographer. “-It’s important to take one’s distance. You know to come down after a show…” Oh yeah, is that how important this is for you? So important that you have to regain yourself in the dressing-room? I’m sure that’s how you make revolutions. Come on, sitting around in the dressing room is all about feeling important. In the dressing room you are still the star, not just some average dude in a three star hotel.

And what is the festival crew doing? Oh, they stand around talking to mafia brothers, or colleagues engaged in the same network. And where is the new audience? Have we absolutely given up on the possibility of sharing anything at all? This isn’t news but worthwhile repeating: You are not interested in a new audience but in keeping your job and serving local politicians.

Yeah. Something is wrong in the state of dance. Stop obsessing about the show and think about what the relations are that your work produces. Whatever position we occupy, it’s the same, but what kind of relations does our work produce? Do we really think our pieces have an impact on the people seated in the auditorium? Sorry, no fuckin chance. It doesn’t work that way, the idea of devoted attention, the impact of that thing up there, is a multiplex cinema, no more. That’s like being a devoted anarchist and not realizing the politics is game of posers. The reason for cultural consumption is no longer about the intensity of experience, on the contrary it is about how it is communicated and about the capacity of spending time together. The era of television is over we live in the age of Youtube. It’s not about making something amazing, a good movie, an exposing documentary, it’s about being part. Youtube is not about images, it’s about relations.

So we wonder what does the festival think when the investments in shows are so many thousand – a regular size show with ten performers is, just the fee, about 15.000€ per night and I’m not counting infrastructure and rents etc – and the investment in the after-party is, well, the same amount but without the thousands. Of course our festivals will suck: dance performances are boring, have tacky soundtracks and poor light design. Dancers were perhaps something sexy in the mid 70s but today, now I can have everything sexy on the Iphone. The festival should focus on everything else than the show. Let’s change the numbers around. Or think about it in this way. I spend a year on making a piece or a festival. I invest my entire life in this, in exactly this. It is this performance I want nothing else! But at the same time I allow some local loser to take care of the catering, decide what wine we should drink, and that quiche with spinach is like amazing.

Who needs an audience that goes home, we don’t – the question is can we afford having an audience that doesn’t stay? Can we afford not to make them talk with us at least until the sun comes up again? The audience is the only thing we have – next to the co-producer – so let’s enjoy it and make it enjoy itself. Free drinks for everybody, and hey – no fucking pasta salad buffet. Stop it, fuck that premiere party backstage – it’s not exactly VIP and hey you already know everybody and where is the film team – let’s invite everybody.

“-But it will be very expensive?” Yes, exactly, in times of economic not to mention creative crisis the budget for the after party should be the last thing to save on. If we are anyways going down, let’s go down with a glass, no a bottle, of champagne. Cynical no way, fanatic fuck yeah.

One Response to “Turning To The Audience”

  1. erwin van doorn September 9, 2010 at 07:41 #

    would a diva care about her audience when she has left the stage will she walk at the same level as her folowers unreachable is the star shining bright till the sun comes up invite inspiring people like me find fundings to make me able to fligh first class and sleep in a 4 star hotel

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